In one job I had during my career, I handled a lot of customer complaints. Sometimes there was nothing I could do to help the person because it was an unreasonable request. Many times the person would then try to contact other people in the company to try to get a different answer. We called this shopping for answers. It reminds me of how some people treat the Bible and faith in Jesus.
God’s commandments can at times create hard choices. You may even feel like no one is listening to your side of the story and that you’re being treated unjustly. It could cause you to seek people who you feel will empathize with your side of the story and agree that you’re being treated unfairly, even though scripture tells you otherwise. It could cause you to shop for your preferred answer — to support people who tell you what you want to hear. This is the concept that Absalom cleverly used to win a following and wrestle the kingdom away from King David.
In 2 Samuel 15, Absalom stands at the gate and intercepts people going to King David to rule on their suit (verse 2). He would tell them, “See, your claims are good and right, but no man listens to you on the part of the king (3).” Then he would add, “Oh that one would appoint me judge in the land, then every man who has any suit or cause could come to me and I would give him justice.” He leveraged the feeling people have of being treated unjustly, that the king was not listening to their side of the case. He recommended that they shop for answers — that he would give them a deal they could not refuse: the answer they wanted to hear.
Have you ever been in that situation? You feel like no one is listening to your side of the story and that you’re being judged unfairly. Then someone tells you you’re right, even though scripture tells you otherwise. When someone supports your view and tells you what you want to hear, it’s easy to follow them despite knowing the person is of questionable character. It’s something leaders can tap into with surprising results: “In this manner Absalom dealt with all Israel who came to the king for judgment; so Absalom stole away the hearts of the men of Israel (6).”
The consequences for King David were enormous. Absalom won the hearts of the men of Israel (13). David was forced to flee Jerusalem with his loyal servants: “Arise and let us flee, for otherwise none of us will escape from Absalom. Go in haste, or he will overtake us quickly and bring down calamity on us and strike the city with the edge of the sword (13-15).” It’s surprising how effective Absalom’s deception was on changing the hearts of people by simply telling them what they wanted hear.
© 2022, Chris G Thelen
For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. – 2 Timothy 4:3-4 (NIV)
Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you. Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. 1 Peter 5:6-8 (NASB)